Parachute ideas for all kinds of programs!

Stumped for ideas for using the parachute at storytime?

Think outside the picture books stacks!

Here are some great ideas for incorporating material from other areas of your collection.

Want to make your own clip art?

Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started!

Some easy ways to spice up your site!

Be sure to suggest your favorites in the comments!

Ideas for incorporating factual materials into storytime

There is lots of great nonfiction for kids out there. If I missed your favorite, leave a comment!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Pregnancy and Parenting Resources for Librarians

In my opinion, children's librarians are actually family services librarians. We have the opportunity to serve parents, grandparents, educators, etc., in addition to our community's youth. Many times parents feel more comfortable talking about researching parenting choices with the children's department's staff because they have a personal relationship with us. We're "their" librarians, after all! 

As a new mom myself, I want to encourage my fellow youth librarians to take a minute and refresh your knowledge of pregnancy and infant care.  I'm going to share some of my favorite resources for those stages. Please add your own in the comments! I'm sure I forgot some and I'd love to know more.  

Parenting Choices and Pediatrician Recommendations 
Links in this section go to the appropriate page on
Cloth or disposable diapers
Baby's sleep accommodations and safety 
How/when/if/method(s) of sleep training
Vaccine schedules (regular schedule, delayed, no vaccines at all)
When and how to introduce solids (purees versus baby led weaning)
Parent-centered or child-centered approach (Feeding on a schedule or on demand, for example)

General Parenting Sites and Resources

Apps and Text Services
Most available for iPhone and Android users
What to Expect When You're Expecting
Text4Baby free, educational texts available in Spanish or English for expectant and new mothers (babies up to 1 year old)

The Happiest Baby on the Block DVD How to calm and settle a baby for fussy periods and naps. Best for babies 3 months and under. Every public library should have this in its collection. 

General Websites
Healthy Children (from the American Academy of Pediatrics)

Parenting Blogs I Read
Hellobee (modern parenting written by real parents from across the U.S. and Canada. Lots of urban dwellers.)
Motherlode (New York Times parenting blog)
Young House Love (Technically a DIY blog, but lots about how they are raising their daughter)
Parenting Starts Here (Isis Parenting blog)

Message Boards to Know 
These are all free to register and post: 
Hellobee My personal favorite
The Bump

Twitter Users to Follow
Nancy Holtzman (@nancyholtzman) A registered nurse and lactation consultant at Isis Parenting (Boston-area) dispenses practical baby care and parenting advice what seems like 24/7. 

My parenting-related Pinterest boards 
Baby Led Weaning (introducing babies to solids without purees)
Great Gifts for Parents and Babies (these are my favorite baby products)
Nursery & Kids' Spaces
Future Kids

Resources in Your Community
Do you know where patrons can get: 
  • free or reduced price vaccines (local health department--Vaccines so expensive! It is not unusual for me to take a peek at our insurance company's statements and see $700 or more in vaccines in a 20 minute well-baby appointment.)
  • formula, breastfeeding, or food assistance (WIC and other social services)
  • treatment for postpartum depression (local mental health agency)
  • Reduced price prenatal care (Planned Parenthood, some health departments)
  • cloth diapers (Do you have a store or service in your area?)
  • information on product recalls ( from the Consumer Product Safety Commission)
  • second-hand baby products (consignment/thrift stores, mom-to-mom sales, etc.) 
  • information about adoption (local agencies, Catholic Charities in some areas) 
  • information about becoming a foster parent (AdoptUSKids, state information here)
  • car seat installation and/or inspection (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a locator, often it's hospitals and public safety departments) 
  • affordable well and sick child care (I think it's also handy to know some of the names of the local pediatricians, but obviously the feasibility of this depends on the size of your community.)
  • health insurance for their kid(s) (CHIP is the national Children's Health Insurance Program, administered by your state's health department)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Programs That Failed

I confess to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have as many failures as successes as far as programming goes. Here, by reader request, is but a small sample:

Programs no one showed up for: 

  • Stuffed Animal Sleepover (would have been awesome)
Programs that I failed to plan for SO! MANY! people to show up for:
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid Book Party (never made it to the blog, but it was fun! Incredibly stressful when all those people walked in the door though.)
Programs that originally got good numbers but drizzled out:
  • Baby Storytime (which now that I have a baby of my own, I wish we still did!)  
Paid Performers that didn't get nearly enough attendance to justify the speaker's fee, which isn't necessarily their fault, but still: 
  • Basically any author visit we've booked, unfortunately. We don't have the money to get someone super famous and the turnouts for more minor writers are dismal. 
Overall, most of my programs go off well. There will always be something that doesn't work out as well as planned. A lot of attendance issue seem to stem from scheduling conflicts with the intended audience. So much trial and error trying to figure out what works with kids and then BOOM! a blizzard hits or the school system changes the official end time and you have to cancel or adjust.

Readers, what programs have been failures for you? 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Playing Santa!

I was inspired this morning (while digging through my ever-so-crowded storage room) to play Santa! We are having our gingerbread house programs today and I thought it would be fun to give the kids a free picture book. Many of the kids in our community are lower-income and don't have books of their own. These books were all donated to the library from parents whose kids have outgrown them, but they are still in great shape. Rather than put them in the book sale, I like to save them to give out when the mood strikes me. We also give them to the winners of our weekly trivia contest during the summer reading program.

You can tell that I could never be a teacher because I cannot write without lines! 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Shelf Raiders: Program Ideas from the Nonfiction Section

I thought it would be interesting to see if we could all come up with a list of ideas for programs based on Dewey classes. I know poor DDC has fallen out of favor, and I'm hardly its biggest defender myself, but using its structure could lead to some great ideas for programs for all ages (not limiting this to kids). Let's give it a shot:

Creating web pages and blogs
School visits to promote library
Encyclopedia Scavenger Hunts
Crafts with discarded magazines
Museum Visits or at least see if you can passes to check out
Unexplained phenomenon

Invite philosophy professor to speak
Ghost hunting
Secrets of successful students
Local haunted houses

History of The Bible or other religious texts

Local candidates forum
Mock election
Fairy Tales Party
Saving money, the stock market, budgeting, etc.
Manners & etiquette (throw a fancy tea party and teach kids about good manners)
Costumes of different eras
Career Day

Bilingual storytime
Spanish (for example) conversation group meeting at library

Food Math
Live animal visits
Gross Science
Science demonstrations (kitchen science, etc.)

Baby chicks at storytime!!!!
Sewing camp
"Trashion" show
Skateboarding demonstration
Babysitting class (include CPR but also the business aspects)
Cooking (have a chef demonstrate or make smoothies)
Pet Show
Ask a local vet to talk about his/her experiences
How to maintain your car

Thumbprint drawings
Photography class
Music appreciation program (play famous musicians from your state--Michigan has tons! Wikipedia is a great resource for this, as most geographic areas have a "notable persons from _______ section")
Talent Night
Altered Books
Any kind of craft
What student athletes need to know about being recruited for college
Anime club
Film club
Music lessons

Poetry readings
Open mic nights
Teen theater readings (pick monologues or improv situations)
Book discussions

Titanic program
Pirate Party
Local veterans could speak about experience in wars

Anything I'm missing? 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Creative Librarian

Two bloggers I admire, Sara and Marge, have been posting their thoughts about creativity and librarianship. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject as well. I think there is some confusion about creativity. A lot of people don't seem to think they are creative. Well, what does that mean? Creativity does not rely on artistic talent. All humans are creative. There are things you can do to make yourself more creative. It is not an innate personality quirk that some have and others are doomed to flail through life without.

When many of us think of the word "creativity," we think of being a gifted painter or other artist. Artistic talent is just one aspect of creativity. One that, while it seems to be a talent from birth, can be honed with practice. If you spend 10,000 hours drawing, you'll probably wind up being pretty good at it. But if you spent one hour and expect to produce a masterpiece, you'll never get good. Never compare a first draft with a finished product without appreciating how much work went into it.

Another is resourcefulness. If you're a children's librarian, I'll eat my hat (if I was wearing one) if you're not resourceful. If you can think of 1,000 craft uses for a paper towel tube, that's resourceful. If you can put on programs using props you found at home, or dug out of your kid's toy chest, that is being resourceful: using what you have.

A creative thing I do a lot at work or even decorating my house is to find an idea I like and steal it. I figure out how I can make it myself cheaper or faster. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. A lot of the most popular projects I've blogged about weren't my own idea, but I made them my own.

Here are some things you might do creatively every day without even thinking about it:

  • Put together an outfit
  • Adjust your route to work because of traffic and/or construction
  • Spontaneously invite a friend to lunch
  • Draw a face on your burger with ketchup
  • Make up parody lyrics in your head
  • Doodle on a meeting agenda
We need to have a conversation as a profession about how we can be more creative. We need our administrators to give us time to experiment and create. And we need to not be afraid to fail. To do that, we need to accept that failing sometimes is a given. Remember that, in baseball, if you have a .300 batting average, generally considered good, you still only got a hit about every third try. 

Never Give Up; Never Surrender: Library Carnival 101

I've mentioned this here and there before, but the biggest program my library puts on is our annual summer reading Carnival. It is always on noon the Saturday after Labor Day in our parking lot.

I can't explain how Carnival works without first explaining how our summer reading program works. Kids going into 5th grade and below earn "library dollars" by filling out logs. 15 minutes of reading = 1 library dollar. They can fill out as many logs as they want (obviously there are only so many hours in a day.) At Carnival, the kids can use their library dollars as tickets to play games. As they play games, they earn prize tickets. (Game tickets can also be purchased for 4 for $1 by families who didn't participate in summer reading.)

The morning of Carnival, most of the staff arrives at 9. The parking lot is blocked off and the staff puts up tents and a fence along the road (we are located at the busiest intersection in town). It winds up looking a little bit like a tailgate party once the grill starts going. It's your basic hot dog/chips/cookies/lemonade spread.

 Carnival Games and Frames
We rent carnival games from our local Fun Services affiliate. This is a great option for those of you, who like us, lack storage for carnival games you won't be using year-round. I believe it runs us about $200 (not including delivery) for about 6 games and all the carnival frames. We use folding tables to set the games on.

Picking out prizes at the duck pond
In addition to renting games, we have a few activities that live in the youth department storage room. They are: duck pond, cake walk, face-painting (cheat and buy stencils), and balloons (we'd do animals if anyone on staff wanted to try). Also, our local American Legion chapter has a toy locomotive that they bring for free and give train rides to the kids. Next year I am bound and determined to go on it myself.

Everyone on staff works that day. Most people are assigned a game or to work at the redemption table (where the kids pick out the prizes). We do use volunteers to fill in the gaps.

I run around all day making sure people get breaks and that everything is stocked up. Usually the whole thing winds down naturally around 2:30 or 3 p.m. It is a very hectic couple of hours but I love Carnival and look forward to it each year. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

My House Draw and Tell

I saw this finger-play in one of my favorite books for planning storytimes, Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom, and I thought it would be fun to adapt into a draw and tell story. 

My House
I'm going to build a little house.
With windows big and bright,
With chimney tall and curling smoke
Drifting out of sight. 
In winter when the snowflakes fall
Or when I hear a storm, 
I'll go sit in my little house
Where I'll be snug and warm. 

Source: Creative Resources for the Early Childhood Classroom by Judy Herr and Yvonne Libby Larson We have the 5th Edition at my library.

There are several versions of movements you can use with this, if you prefer it as a fingerplay. 

Download my Draw and Tell PDF for step-by-step instructions. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Structuring Programs for Kids

Can we talk a little about program structure? I've read countless professional reference books about storytime and most of them recommend structuring your storytime so that the longest book is read first. That's a good plan if your idea of a good storytime is one where the kids sit quietly and you read. It's advice that has been less successful for me.

Remember my storytime philosophy?
I like interactive stories. But people of all ages, kids and adults, often need to be coaxed into participating. We don't do storytime registrations at my library, so I always have a different group at each program. Even if you require registration for your storytimes and the same people come each week, their moods will be different. Kids can be shy one minute and climbing all over you the next. 

I wanted to show you a little bit about how I decided to structure my shadow puppet program that I am doing over the winter school break this year. I'll be posting more about the stories from this program on the blog later, so stay tuned for that. The typical advice to start long and get progressively shorter as the kids' attention spans fade would leave me with a "set list" looking like this: 
  1. Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
  2. Arthur's Nose upcoming
  3. The Ant and The Grasshopper upcoming
  4. "My Shadow" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar
  5. "The Dog and His Bone" (patterns from Judy Sierra's Fantastic Theater: Puppets and Plays for Young Performers--amazing book!)
  6. "Shadow Wash" upcoming
I am dissatisfied with this approach for a few reasons:
  1. Always someone comes into my programs late and misses the beginning (and thus, the plot setup). That is a huge problem with a story many kids won't know already like Mother Mother. 
  2. Several of the stories rely on audience participation and you really need to prime the audience for that gradually. 
I decided to order the stories in a way that would allow people who do not come in on time to not miss the most important parts and so that people would gradually "warm up" to me as a storyteller and participate more.*

Another consideration was that I wanted to end with Arthur's Nose, as we have a tradition of letting the kids come up and play with the puppets after the show. I wanted them to be able to do that without breaking our overhead projector. So I needed to be able to wheel that out of the way before chaos broke lose. 

Here's what the set list looks like now: 
  1. "My Shadow" 
  2. "The Dog and His Bone"
  3. "Ant and the Grasshopper" 
  4. "Shadow Wash"
  5. Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick
  6. Arthur's Nose
*I also use this trick with my recurring storytime pieces that I start each storytime with. "Open, Shut Them" has people simply moving their hands, "Little Mouse, Little Mouse" has the kids guessing colors, and finally they are ready to participate fully making animal noises and movements in "Let's Hear You Roar Like a Lion," the last lines of which prime them to settle down like mice.  

Now I'm curious: How do you structure your programs? What other factors come into play in putting together a "set list"? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Faces in the Crowd: Library Programs for Adults

I'd like to chat about programs for adults. Don't worry, I'm still a children's librarian! But I know it can be really hard to find great programs geared at an adult audience, so I thought I'd post some of our more successful programs for grown-ups. Most of these do not require much staff time beyond marketing efforts and picking up supplies. I didn't plan or present any of these, but if you have additional questions I will try and get answers for you.

Holiday Programs
Wreath-Making Class
One of our staff members taught patrons (class size limited to around 10) how to make Christmas wreaths. Cost was about $10 per person, and another $2ish if they wanted to make a bow, as well. I believe the most cost-effective way to obtain the greenery was to buy 3 full Christmas trees. But this is Michigan and Christmas trees are everywhere. I was shocked the first time I heard of anyone paying more than $20 for a tree! 

Cookie Exchange
Participants register ahead of time and give a copy of their recipe to the library. The librarian makes copies of each recipe for everyone. On the day of the program, they bring a dozen cookies in and try each others. We have done these with winter and autumn themes. 

The local chocolate shop presented on techniques, history, etc. of chocolate-making around Valentine's Day. 

Programs for Any Time of the Year
Antique Appraisals
This was an awesome program! Mike Gaylord, of the antiques radio show Everything Classic, came and gave free antique appraisals. He was a great sport and here all day. I have no idea what it cost to get him here, but one of the car dealers in town sponsored it. He broadcast the show from their dealership and then came straight to the library for our program. 

Ghost Hunters
A local paranormal group talked about some of their hunts. I wondered if we might get complaints about this, but we didn't. A neighboring system had someone teaching tarot cards in a branch and there was at least one letter to the editor of the local newspaper about that. 

History of Quilts
A staff member and quilter presented on different techniques and styles of quilts. If I recall correctly, local quilts from the historical society were displayed as well.

What programs for adults have been successful at your library. Please chime in and leave a comment. (If you email me, I'm the only one who will see it!)  

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Thinking Outside the Picture Book Stacks: Nonfiction at Storytime

Earlier we talked about using poetry in storytime. I promised to return with more titles to raid your non-picture book collection for when planning storytime. Here are just a few suggestions from each of the Dewey classes (and please add your own in the comments):

My Librarian is a Camel: I love this book for an audience with some school-age kids, as it talks about libraries all over the world. You could bring a globe with you and show the students how far some of the countries are from your own country.

Other Goose: Re-Nurseried and Re-Rhymed Children's Classics: Have the kids recite some traditional nursery rhymes, then teach them one of these re-imagined versions. My pick would be "Old King Coal" on page 48.

Two recent collections of international rhymes and tales I enjoyed were Sally Go Round the Stars: Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood and The Elephant's Friend and Other Tales from Ancient India (told in comic strip format, so probably better adapted to a storytelling format).

If you are working with an older audience than preschoolers, I think 14 Cows for America and Mama Miti are great potential read-alouds. The former is the true story of a remote Kenyan village's healing donation of 14 cows to the U.S. after the September 11th attacks. The latter is inspired by the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

You will have tons of options in the animal-heavy 590s, like Tara and Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends. I also like Elephants Can Paint Too! and Wombats. There are some great picture books about wombats, but my preschoolers in Michigan aren't likely to know much about them. This is a great introduction for the little ones.

 At the Fire Station An older choice, this is a great nonfiction complement to a firefighter storytime. My firefighter storytime is probably the biggest hit of all the themes I do all year. I like to think the fire department enjoys it too.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick, Quick, Quick Shadow Puppet Show

I have been on a bit of a kick making shadow puppets lately. I am really enjoying this art form and it's a great one for libraries for the following reasons:
1) Super cheap puppets (essentially free) that you can make yourself
2) Can easily be presented by one person
3) Can do anything from illustrating a nursery rhyme to a full adaption of a picture book or a full-scale play.

One of the greatest picture books of all time is Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick, Quick, Quick by Remy Charlip, who actually suggests trying it out as a shadow puppet show. I decided to take him up on that idea and MMIFSSFTDQQQ will be the main attraction at our Shadow Puppet Theater Program over the school break. (I'll post another time about the other, shorter stories we performed). I'm submitting this for Flannel Friday because it would be possible to do this story at storytime (even without a helper), so I think it counts.

First I want to say that I had SO. MUCH. FUN. making this show but that basically everything that could have possibly gone wrong* in preparing it did. Murphy's Law totally applies to children's librarians.

One way to perform this story would be to take a child volunteer from the audience and have him/her play the main character. All he/she needs to do is lay down and you would play the doctor and pull miscellaneous items out of his stomach as if he had swallowed them as in the book. You would both be hidden behind a large white sheet and the audience would see you in shadow. You could use whatever junk (official library term: realia) you have around. Very little is referenced directly in the text and you can make up your own bits to stretch it out.

Another way is to make shadow puppets for an overhead projector using a mix of black cardstock (or poster board) and transparency sheets. Here's how I did that:

1) I drew all the pieces in Microsoft Paint using this method I posted about previously. It took me a few hours of desk time, but I think they turned out great! I made the doctor's hat a separate piece from his body so it could disappear at the appropriate time. I also cut the doctor's body in half so he could bend to pull items out of the boy. Likewise, the boy's stomach is made separately so it can shrink as items exit.

2) I opened them all in Microsoft Publisher and used the image re-sizing tool to get the pieces exactly the right sizes.

3) Then I printed the images of the doctor and the boy onto black card stock using our ink-jet printer. Even though the images are all black and the paper was black there was enough difference in the blacks that I was able to see well enough to cut them out. The people have to be opaque, so the other pieces will be surprise when "the doctor" pulls them out of his young patient.

4) I printed the images of the boy's stomach contents onto clear transparency sheets using our copy machine. They actually printed quite well, as you can see (ignore the zebra print duct tape, a story for another time): 

5) Cut the pieces out. In my opinion, it looks better if you do not trim them, as the edges will be visible. Use tape to attach plastic straws to cutouts and the movable parts of people. 

Supplies List: 
Black card stock ($3.97 at Walmart for 50 sheets of 8.5" by 11"--office supply aisle)
Transparency sheets (if using an ink-jet printer, make sure you buy the kind meant for that type of printer)
Clear plastic straws
Clear Tape
Overhead Projector + Working Bulb(s)

*I knew we had transparency sheets and black stock but couldn't find either, found them both and printed the transparency in an ink-jet printer--all the ink rubbed off, originally made some of the pieces too large to fit on the projector, and when everything was finally made correctly and I turned the overhead projector on to test it, the bulb burnt out immediately. 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Printable Snowperson Craft

I've already started planning our winter storytime sessions (kicking off the first full week of January here) and, for me, the hardest part is trying to come up with an art or craft activity that is simple enough for the littler ones and yields a decent result without having to buy materials. So I decided to make my own craft for some of the weeks. Here's my first effort: a simple snowman, which is still a little tricky for the little ones to cut for themselves.

I know there is a philosophy out there that it's better for kids to have open-ended art activities than to have "copy this" adult-directed crafts and I agree with that, but for a lot of reasons, I'm not sure my storytimes are the best time and place for that. I'd love to offer an open art studio program in the future sometime. Maybe during summer reading? It's tricky for me because the county arts council is mere steps away from my library and I don't want to step on their kids' programming toes.

You can download this craft for free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Creative Commons License
Printable Snowperson Craft by Anne Clark is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Shadow Storytime

I thought much of the content that I'm currently working on for my winter shadow puppet show would adapt easily to a great preschool storytime theme. I love the idea of doing this in late January or early February for Groundhog Day.

Here's a selection of books and poems to run with:
Arthur's Nose shadow puppet show
"The Dog and His Bone" shadow puppet show (patterns from Judy Sierra's Fantastic Theater: Puppets and Plays for Young Performers--amazing book!)
Mother Mother I Feel Sick Send for the Doctor Quick Quick Quick as a shadow puppet show or just read the book
"My Shadow" from Shout! Little Poems that Roar
"Shadow Wash" prop story

You can also hang a plain sheet up and let the kids practice making shadows in front of the audience. Photo opp!

A fun activity for slightly older kids would be to team them in pairs and have them take turns pretending to be each other's shadows. We used to do this in drama club.